Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sashiko Embroidered Double Gauze Shirts

Oh, I am so excited about this post!

This month's Project Run and Play theme was handwork, something I typically don't do.  BUT one of the last things I did before leaving Tokyo was to sign up for a sashiko embroidery class.  It was such a fun experience--a friend and I did it together, and it really felt like sitting in on a sewing circle with several Japanese ladies.  Most of the people in the class were repeat customers, bringing their ongoing projects back to work on them with some company.  I started a great embroidered panel (that I've since finished; not sure what I'm going to do with it yet!) while getting tips on the technique from the woman teaching the class.

Just getting started!

Making progress--a great project for sitting on the patio with a  friend!

Those of you in Tokyo, I recommend it--the class is on the first Thursday of the month at the Blue and White Store in Azabu-Juban!

In any case, my new sashiko skills were fresh in my mind when the ladies behind Frances Suzanne posted their challenge for Project Run and Play this month.  So while a couple of months ago I probably would have passed on this one, I actually had some excellent inspiration.

Unfortunately, the timing was a little difficult--on August 9th, we left Tokyo after living there for 15 months, so I sold my machine and packed up all of my fabric and kissed it goodbye until our shipment arrives in Portland in October.  But I held out a special piece of double gauze from Kokka--it's called Ihme Chamber, and when I visited the Kokka showroom in Tokyo I got to see the original watercolor for this print hanging on the wall!

So cool!

The display of the different colorways

I thought it would be perfect with my sashiko accents to make a really special item for returning to school this fall.  I was planning on making a top for The Boy, but Little Sister really wanted to get in on the action too, and so I made one for her as well.

Little Sister's top is the Norah Dress/Tunic pattern from Mouse House Creations, and
The Boy has the Prepster Pullover from Blank Slate Patterns.
I apologize in advance, but this is going to be a pretty long post since I used new patterns for both The Boy and Little Sister's tops, and I want to tell you about how they went together.  The pictures are really cute though--you should scroll through just for those! ;)

Both tops have the same sashiko embroidery detail on the pockets and the back yoke.

The Boy's shirt is the Prepster Pullover from Blank Slate Patterns in size 8, with some extra length (instead of doing a standard folded under hem, I just did a bias facing so I didn't lose any length from the cut pattern piece).  Otherwise I made the pattern exactly as written, and I really liked it!  I was nervous about doing the placket (I've never done one before), but it came out perfectly and the method was ingenious and very simple!  It made me want to start putting plackets on all the things.

About to start 2nd grade!
My only complaint is that size 8 is the largest size, and I just bought the pattern--I wish there were more sizes so that it would last me longer!  My guy is 7 and a half and slim, and the size 8 fits really well in the body but I did add length as I mentioned--but he is tall for his age (and long of torso, which he gets from me).  I have to say, it was nice to start with the short sleeved version since the long sleeves do involve a lot more steps--although I wonder if the long sleeves will need extra length for him too?  The size chart doesn't give a shoulder-to-wrist measurement, just chest, waist, and hip, so you have to kind of guess on lengths.

I got the free printable sashiko embroidery pattern from the tutorial posted by Jo of Dotta on Imagine Gnats.  There are lots to choose from--I'm excited to try more of them!  I printed the pattern out at 100% and it was a perfect fit on my pocket pattern piece for the Prepster Pullover.

I can't remember now where I found this tip, but it worked so well--I traced the sashiko pattern on to a piece of the thinnest fusible interfacing I could find, then ironed it to the backside of my fabric.  Then I had the design right there on the back!

I love all the little characters in this print--there's a cow, a swan, a fox, a frowny bird,
and of course the little guy poking his head out of a garbage can...

The embroidery on the back yoke was kind of an afterthought--as I was putting it together I thought that some extra detail would look nice there, but I had already partially sewn things together and didn't want to attach interfacing.  So I just traced the pattern with an air erasable marker and worked quickly!  I'm so glad I added it back there--I think it makes a huge difference.

I had originally planned to make a dress for Little Sister.  I just bought the Norah pattern when it was a Friday Fiver (yay!) and showed all of the cute options for collars and sleeves to Little Sister.  She chose short sleeves, and she adamantly did NOT want any kind of collar.   I made a mental plan to make the short sleeved dress with a  center panel of sashiko embroidery down the front, and had my fabrics all cut and prepped for that, but...

Starting Kindergarten!

She really wanted a shirt, not a dress, since she wanted hers to be a close match to her brother's.  She also vetoed the center panel (thankfully I hadn't started embroidering yet, or she would have been out of luck) in favor of a pocket like Big Brother's.  I re-cut the front to put that big tree front and center for the tunic length with no embroidered center panel.  Then she wanted a button placket too, but I didn't have enough fabric to cut another front panel out and I wasn't going to chop the focal point tree in half, so we compromised on the red bias tape neckline instead of the clean neckline with lining.  Honestly, even though I would have loved to do a few things differently design-wise on this dress, it's so worth it to listen to her input because then we end up with a garment that she will actually wear.  It's not worth it to make a dress my way that sits in the closet because I ignored what she wanted!

Turns out the pocket placement is PERFECT--she keeps putting things in there!
I used the same pocket pattern from the Prepster Pullover pattern.
 I did line the back yoke using the same method as in the Prepster Pullover, so it's nice and clean on the inside.  And of course she got the back yoke embroidery as well!

I love the fit on this top--I was worried that the sleeves might be too full, but they are just right.  I did french seams since I was using double gauze, so that did take the side seams in a tiny bit more.  My kids are opposites in sizing--the 7-year-old is almost too big for the size 8, and the 5-year-old is almost too small for the size 4!

Oh, and speaking of fit, since I added the embroidery, I shortened the opening in the back of the tunic.  But I shortened it too much--oops!  I had to widen the neckline slightly so that Little Sister's head could fit through.  But all's well that ends well!

Back to school
There was something so soothing about doing the embroidery.  First of all, the project was so portable!  We have been enjoying being back in our Portland house with a big front porch where we watch the neighbors go by, and it felt pretty idyllic to watch the kids eat ice cream on the porch swing while I sat and embroidered and drank craft beer.  It's also a great thing to do while watching a movie (although you may miss some key visual effects while you're looking at your stitching).  The longer I sew, the further down the path of special details and nice finishes I go--I'm working on being less slapdash and instant-gratification oriented, and this handwork inspiration project was really very enjoyable, and I love the results.

Can you tell we enjoyed our photo shoot today?


  1. That's beautiful embroidery, and I love the brother/sister matching outfits, so cute.

    1. Thank you! They wore them tonight to a back-to-school playground event, and I hadn't even thought about how much easier they are to keep track of in matching shirts :)

  2. I love this too! So glad you learned new techniques in Japan & welcome home.

  3. I just love sashiko, I'm just a beginner but it's very interesting and a great way to embellish anything. Those outfits look great!

    1. I am pretty intimidated by other forms of embroidery, but I love how simple the technique part of sashiko is--some of the designs are so detailed, but it seems doable to work up to that!

  4. Those are just adorable! I love that they enjoy matching. You did a phenomenal job. I have never been able to do embroidery of any sort...

    1. Oh, you should check out sashiko! It is such a simple technique--basically a running stitch with a thicker cotton thread! I have never done embroidery before but I could get addicted to this.

  5. I love the matching shirts! How cute she wanted something exactly like her brother's :) I have always loved hand embroidery, but sashiko never really appealed to me when I was living in Japan. But now I see sashiko stitches and think they are beautiful...maybe because I have been away from Japan so long or because I am just older ;)

    1. I feel like you can use the sashiko technique for a lot of styles, more modern or traditional--I'm really having fun with it!

  6. This is lovely again Beth! And back in the US, will it be hard to get used to is?

    1. Thank you! We were able to come back to our same house, same schools, etc, so the transition back to the US has been pretty painless so far. But we will start missing Japan the longer we are back!


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